Azeri police have used teargas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of protesters demanding the resignation of a regional leader, after cars and a hotel were set ablaze in a night of rioting.
The unrest in Ismayilli, a resort town of 15,000 people, 110 miles from capital Baku, appears to have been sparked on Wednesday night by a wealthy hotel owner.
Emil Shamsaddinov is said to have got into a fight with another motorist after his Chevrolet Camaro sports car veered onto a pavement and hit an electricity pole. The victim of the attack was parked by the side of the road in a Soviet-era Zhiguli, the ubiquitous model favoured for cheapness rather than quality.
Mr Shamsaddinov, who police said may have been drunk, swore at onlookers, prompting an angry reaction from an assembled group of residents.
The dispute quickly escalated, leading to around 3,000 residents raiding Mr Shamsaddinov’s Chyrag hotel – the name means “fire” in Azeri – and setting alight several of his cars, which included the Camaro, a Chevrolet Niva and a Hummer.
Police said the rampage lasted about four hours.
In amateur video of burning vehicles and buildings uploaded to the Internet, people in the crowd are heard laughing and cheering. The mob then directed its ire at the son of the Ismayilli district chief, whose house they also attacked. There they set fire to a Toyota Land Cruiser and two motorcycles.
Yesterday, despite an increased security presence in the town, hundreds of people went back onto the streets and surrounded a regional government building and demanded the governor resign.
Such unrest is seen as a consequence of popular resentment to glaring inequalities of wealth in former Soviet republics such as Azerbaijan, and the arrogant behaviour of the richest citizens.